Who is Lisa?
Art Shay talks to Lisa Napoli for KCRW at drkrm, 2013, by Andy Romanoff
Photo Credit: Preston Wiles
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, I’ve lived in the mysterious, strange and wonderful foreign land of downtown Los Angeles since 2004, where I’ve written four books and where there’s hardly been a dull moment (though even before the pandemic struck, I stopped hosting my somewhat-legendary weekly Friday parties.)
My first book, Radio Shangri-La, is about the impact of media culture on the mysterious Kingdom of Bhutan, where I was invited (by a handsome tea importer) to help start a radio station at the dawn of democratic rule.
My second book, Ray & Joan, about the late philanthropist Joan Kroc and her husband, the irascible founding chairman of the McDonald’s corporation, was sparked by an assignment I undertook while an arts reporter at KCRW.
For my third and fourth books, I turned to media history. Up All Night: Ted Turner, CNN and the Making of 24-Hour News looks at the origin story of the world’s first all-news cable channel.
Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie is the story of the “founding mothers” of NPR wrapped around the emergence of public radio and second wave feminism in the seventies.
Over the years I worked as a journalist, I covered presidential campaigns, the Waco hostage standoff, an outdoor hacker convention, and the then-emerging culture of the Internet and digital technology, all at a wide variety of news outlets (some which no longer exist) including the New York Times CyberTimes, MSNBC, and the public radio show Marketplace.
And yet I always hungered for the long-form that bookwriting allows. Back when I lived in the American south, I directed two video documentaries, one on the kitsch tourist trap in Dillon, South Carolina called South of the Border and the other about NASCAR fans called Day at the Races. It’s fun to be asked to conduct live interviews that aren’t scripted or edited; I’ve been able to chat up Terry McMillan, Pico Iyer, Naomi Shihab Nye, Seth Godin, Sheryl Wu-Dunn, Deepak Chopra, Gretchen Rubin.
A graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, for over five years I led an award-winning volunteer cooking group at the Downtown Women’s Center on Skid Row in Los Angeles. Other volunteer work includes serving as founding board president of the Bhutan Media Service, an all-volunteer news outlet created by Bhutanese refugees in diaspora, and co-hosting a podcast for Biographers International Organization. For a while, I produced Gracefully about growing old (unable to find sponsors, I stopped.)
Though there’s plenty to keep me busy, I’m always open to work, as well as invitations to speak, and/or to swim in marvelous swimming pools.